Qué Viva México!

Qué Viva México! is notable for the fractured nature of its production and release, making historical interpretation a multilayered affair. While most films can be analyzed primarily in terms of filming date as well as the historical period considered, Qué Viva México! is also influenced by the production difficulties and delays that were its primary legacy until 1979, and the bitterness expressed by Grigory Alexandrov on that count. As noted in Hart, Eisenstein’s death without editing his film makes it difficult for the viewer to consider it through the lens of authorial intent, regardless of Alexandrov’s involvement and statement that the words included were Eisenstein’s.

Despite the editing quandaries and missing ‘Soldadera’ sequence, some political motivations and commentary can doubtless be assigned to a film that is less straightforward documentary than romanticized vision. Chris Robe’s “Eisenstein in America” offers an introduction to the politicized reception of Eisenstein, and of the mere idea of Qué Viva México! Considering Eisenstein’s sometimes contentious relationship with the Soviet Union and the subversive religious themes portrayed in the film, along with the unabashedly pro-revolutionary message, it is unsurprising that Qué Viva México! took on such promise for the leftist critics in America.

In this regard, perhaps the absence of ‘Soldadera’ is felt most strongly. The preceding sections set a definite tone, for all their occasionally disjointed subject matter, and the sociopolitical as well as cultural tensions between indigenous Mexicans and their oppressors (perhaps most successfully portrayed in the aforementioned religious imagery.) As Hart points out, the ‘Maguey Cactus’ novella is the most complete and successful, with its dramatic action sequences setting the stage for the Mexican revolution. In the aftermath of the most meaning-imbued segment of the film, ‘Soldadera’ would have taken the entire history of Mexico to an entirely new level. Focusing on a period in recent memory at the time of filming, it would likely have held more personal authenticity than some previous segments.

In discussing the failure of Thunder Over Mexico, Robe mentions ‘Soldadera’s’ planned concern with the “growing revolutionary consciousness and the overthrow of Porfirio Diaz’s capitalist regime.” Of course, it is unlikely that ‘Soldadera’ would have fully expressed the chaotic nature of the lengthy revolutionary period. The extreme disunity following Madero’s ejection and execution left Mexico heavily divided and war-ravaged; even after Carranza’s apparent victory, lingering supporters of Emiliano Zapata and Pancho Villa had to be summarily crushed before a rhetoric of national unity could begin and the disposed revolutionary leaders earn a place as Mexican heroes (Chasteen.)

Would the complexities of the Mexican Revolution have been expressed in ‘Soldadera’? Would the female revolutionary in question have encountered other bands of rebels, unsure of the counts on which their ideologies differed? Or would the vying forces have been simplified for leftist critics and a theme of gloriously emergent Mexican nationalism?

Regardless of these questions, the epilogue seems to reflect a continued belief in a new Mexico – one that would not be born out fully following Carranza’s victory, but certainly compatible with the nationalist vision presented by so many revolutionaries throughout the region’s history.